Generalship in combat is extraordinarily difficult, and many seasoned officers fail at it. During World War II, senior American commanders typically were given a few months to succeed, or they’d be replaced. Sixteen out of the 155 officers who commanded Army divisions in combat were relieved for cause, along with at least five corps commanders. Since 9/11, the armed forces have played a central role in our national affairs, waging two long wars—each considerably longer than America’s involvement in World War II. Yet a major change in how our military operates has gone almost unnoticed. Relief of generals has become so rare that, as Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling noted during the Iraq War, a private who loses his rifle is now punished more than a general who loses his part of a war.
From bestselling author Thomas E. Ricks’ article “General Failure,” in The Atlantic.
The piece is an extended excerpt from his new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, and will make you rethink pretty much everything you know about the military and U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century.
Some analysts say there are multiple factions within the armed forces, including a large contingent of midlevel officers who are professional soldiers, or “institutionalists,” with no particular allegiance to Chavez’s socialist movement. That has become a source of tension in recent years as Chavez has instituted the new salute repeated by soldiers: “Socialist fatherland or death!”
Analysts believe those midlevel officers would be inclined to insist on a constitutional transition of power in the event of the president’s departure.
In contrast, Chavez’s high command is openly in favor of his socialist project and loyal to him.
Civil-military relations in Latin America get very little media coverage lately. That’s so even in Venezuela, where what the military is thinking about Hugo Chávez’s sweeping reforms is a very relevant question.
A piece by AP reporter Ian James tries to take the Venezuelan military’s pulse, guessing — correctly, I think — that the armed forces will move to the forefront if Chávez’s health problems end up affecting governance in Venezuela.
Attention should always be paid to what the military is doing/thinking/saying in highly polarized regimes—especially ones that rely extensively on the military (as Chávez’s does).